Two months ago I accepted a freshly minted role at Fuerst Group (KEEN Footwear, Chrome Industries and other entities) as their People + Culture Development Director. Today, I wanted to share with you why and how I made this substantial career pivot in response to a flurry of inquiries around how this move came about.
But before I begin, I will continue to thank EACH OF YOU (picture on the left highlights some of those very special people) for your awe-inspiring support and cheer-leading throughout the past six years. Your sponsorship, endorsements and engagement have made my entrepreneurial years with Katie Kelley Networks fundamentally possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
First, a quick run-down of my career journey by the years:
• 21-30 years old: Earned my license and practiced psychotherapy at New York Presbyterian Hospital[ (Boston & NYC)
• 30-33: My medical sales & management development years with Novartis (NYC)
• 34-40: Ran my own coaching and consulting business (Katie Kelley Networks out of Portland, Oregon)
• 40: Accepted dream in-house role as People + Culture Development Director (Fuerst Group, Portland)
When my husband Tom and I met and fell in love in NYC, we set our sights on Portland, Oregon as a small town where we could build a life that fit our western roots. We quit our jobs and drove cross country into Portlandia (into a monsoon-like rainstorm, of course) seven and a half years ago. We could count on one hand the people we knew here. I was eager to experiment with bridging my clinical training with the business world and knowing our first daughter was on her way into the world, it seemed like an opportune time to start a business that allowed me the creativity and flexibility I needed. I launched my business in the spring of 2009.
It was a fantastic six year run. Throughout the years, I coached and developed primarily women headed towards, or holding, senior-level business roles. I hustled (a lot); I networked (my tail off); I spoke on many stages and around many kitchen tables (which were the most rewarding experiences); I wrote and produced three years of television segments; I got to teach alongside my mentor, Cindy Tortorici; I partnered with brilliant companies in New York City; and I wrote a book, Career Courage: Discover Your Passion, Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Create the Life You Want, set to be released in spring of 2016 by American Management Association (another big thank you to my agent Michael Snell).
And then I turned the “big 4-0” last summer.
Whether it was the number 40 itself, or simply the fact that it was a milestone demanding me to take stock of the bigger picture, I realized that I had found what I sought out to discover when I started my business six years earlier. I had yearned for the opportunity to serve in the most purposeful way and, ultimately, organizational people development is where my entrepreneurial journey led me. Further, in order to ensure my potential was maximized, I discovered that it was essential to come on board with a company who believed in a people development role for their organization’s future evolution.
However, coming to the above revelation was a messy and confusing process. Even though it’s all crystal clear today, does not mean that making this career pivot was easy. I had invested a great deal of personal energy and resources into my original dream of running a successful business. I had to de-program myself from an identity that simply no longer fit the person I had evolved into and the journey I wanted to pursue next.
The “ah-ha” moment came as I was nearing completion of my forthcoming book Career Courage. I followed the counsel of the seventy leaders and mentors whom I interviewed for the book and soon came upon the revelation that now was the time to make my own bold career move.
Endless thanks to my husband, my mentors and my friends who reflected back to me who they saw in me today and hoisted me upwards and pushed me forward. These people are the golden gems in our lives that should never be undervalued.
The universe helped me float downstream for the remainder of this story.
KEEN Footwear was one of the companies where I served as an executive coach over the past few years. I always loved my experiences working with their management team and could see that their strength of talent and culture was remarkable. Fast forward to January 2015. I had a casual coffee meeting with my associate at KEEN, the Vice President of Global People + Culture. I updated her on my career revelation and shared how some of my recent job interviews were going. This organically led to a conversation about how I might come on board at KEEN (and then onto their holding company, Fuerst Group) and what type of role would be created around my unique background and skill set.
I almost fell out of my seat when I heard this hypothetical proposal. This was the dream role I sought as it would allow me to help this organization create their people development initiatives from scratch. KEEN Footwear is a family-owned, 12-year-old company who is positioning to double their growth over the next three years. Our mission is to earn loyal fans by being the most original and inspiring footwear brand in the world. Needless to say, I’ve found my professional home base and am loving it.
So, where does all of this leave Katie Kelley Networks? Don’t go anywhere! While KKN no longer offers any business services, I am looking forward to returning to my public speaking role this fall and will be scheduling Career Courage book launch events in Boston, New York and California in 2016. More details to come.
The presiding lesson learned this past year is best summarized by my favorite W.B. Yeats quote: “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure neither this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”
Wishing you all an outstanding summer season,